I am a United Airlines fanboy - my first leisure international flight was on a United Boeing 757 from New York to London, and my first aircraft collectable was a Continental Airlines Boeing 777-200. Thus, naturally, when flying from my home base, also United’s largest hub, I have a favorite.
United began operations 94 years ago as a postal service carrier in Idaho. Continental also began around the same time by the same man as a postal carrier in Texas. Both carriers eventually grew to become some of the largest and most crucial carriers in the US after deregulation. In 2010, United Airlines acquired Continental Airlines in the form of a merger. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, modern day United is the 3rd largest carrier in the world with a fleet of over 800 aircraft serving over 300 destinations from 8 hubs, as well as a founding member of Star Alliance.
United began offering extra legroom in Economy in 1999 as the only US carrier to offer separate Economy rows with extra space at a premium price, and would continue to be the only through the early 2000’s - although many carriers featured more legroom throughout the cabin. From there its introduction began ramping up across the mainline fleet; meanwhile, Premium Economy became the hot topic of the 2010’s. In 2015 we saw the branded EconomyPlus product introduced across the Boeing 777 aircraft as well as post merger with Continental on all legacy Continental aircraft. EconomyPlus is now a standard sight within the fleet and includes extra legroom, priority boarding and easy exiting of the aircraft due to its forward location.
This is where this trip got interesting, I was not originally booked on United for this leg, I was actually booked on Spirit Airlines, a carrier I have flown plenty as a Fort Lauderdale native - their home base. My original flight was on Friday, March 6th at 8:10 PM, perfect for after work. However around 1:00 PM that day I received a notification that my flight was cancelled due to technical issues with the inbound aircraft. As you can imagine, I was in a bit of a panic, I needed to get to Dallas that evening and this was the first time I ever had a flight cancelled. I reached out to Spirit on social media and through the phone, then suddenly I got an email from Spirit rebooking me on a set of American Airlines flights connecting me through LA and arriving in Dallas the next day at 6:00 AM. Now, flying a red-eye on economy for a weekend trip to the other side of the country with a layover and back did not sound ideal. So I asked what else could be done and was told to contact the Spirit desk at O’Hare but then proceeded to give me the number of the actual airport, which led nowhere.
After being told the only way to change my flight would be to show up at O’Hare and work it out at the desk, I asked to cancel my flight and surprisingly received a full refund quite fast. I was now flightless with a return ticket from Dallas already booked. So I took to my favorite app, the United app, and checked award travel, to my pleasant surprise there were seats on a 8:20 PM Non-Stop to Dallas in Economy. A few clicks and I secured myself a seat on my go to carrier out of my favorite O’Hare terminal in less than 5 minutes. Given this was the beginning of the Coronavirus’ arrival to the US, seats weren’t as hard to find, however I would not recommend booking flights for a trip so last minute.
I booked this flight for 15,000 MileagePlus Miles, valued at $195, and $5 of taxes and fees. After a long trek to the airport, I arrived at my gate exhausted and in the last boarding group which felt like just too much. So I went back on the United app and purchased an upgrade to EconomyPlus for only $27 which came with an upgrade to Boarding Group 3. Due to the nature of mile redemptions, for this trip I did not earn any points.
In 2017, Alaska introduced Premium Class aboard it’s Boeing 737 Fleet. The product promised early boarding, 4” of extra legroom, elevated snacks and complimentary alcoholic beverages. In addition, Mileage Plan Elites would be eligible for free upgrades - others can purchase these seats at an additional cost. After its acquisition of Virgin America, these same standards migrated over to the Airbus Fleet - some of whom are retrofit, while others are simply a rebrand of what was once Main Cabin Select.
We booked this flight as part of a longer three leg journey from Chicago to Portland, Portland to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles back to Chicago as a means of maximizing the value of the annual Companion Pass that’s a perk of my Alaska Airlines VISA Card. As such, the combined total of our two tickets, including the Companion Pass, was $576.99 - coming to a total of $288.49 per person, or $96.16 per flight - a great value in my book! To maximize Alaska Mileage Plan Miles, which are some of the most valuable in the industry, we booked using my Alaska Airlines VISA card netting three miles per dollar and a total of 1,731 miles. In addition, this leg of the journey earned 1,745 base miles and 873 MVP bonus miles for a total of 2,618 miles.